For What It’s Worth

Spontaneous turn

I’m an especially cautious driver when a cop is in sight, though even being cautious is sometimes costly. That assumes, of course, that I see the cop.

Which is not always the case.

You’re smiling already, right? You think you know what’s coming and a laugh is bubbling up inside you. Well, stifle the snicker. No ticket—this time.

The other day I was driving, taking my wife on a store-to-store quest to find a particular color of card stock she needed for a client’s printing order. Hot pink. We had been unsuccessful, and her face was flushing toward the desired color of card stock as her frustration level mounted. The paper was for a regular customer, and the order needed to be completed that day so it could be readied and mailed the next day. In other words, we were on deadline.

Our pursuit was taking us to the next stop, B&C Business Products on Ninth Street. I turned right from Main Street and headed slowly west on Ninth. Reaching the destination, I spotted open parking spaces. Of course, they were to my left and were angle parking spaces designed to be entered driving east, not west. Spontaneously, with no thought of whether it was a legal or non-legal turn and without checking my rearview mirror, I signaled a left turn and, making half a U-turn, I crossed the oncoming lane and whipped into an open parking place.

Only, then, with my pride slightly puffed up with the satisfaction of the clever maneuver, did I glance in the rearview mirror. Surprise! The car immediately behind me was a Payne County Sheriff’s Department cruiser. My puffed up pride deflated immediately in fear.

Oh, no, you dummy. You’ve done it now. A ticket for an improper turn or for something. My pastor and half the people from church will drive by while I get a ticket.

And, though I can’t verify it, I suspect that my face became the hot pink color my wife was seeking in the card stock. Oh, well, at least when we would make it into the store and a clerk asked what color card stock we needed, my wife could smile sweetly, as only she can in certain situations, point to my face, and say, “That color.”

Stifle that snicker again. Apparently my well-executed turning and parking maneuver was not illegal or, perhaps, the officer through some form of ESP perceived my plight in wanting to lower my wife’s anxiety level. Whichever, the officer cruised on westward without so much as a backwards glance at me, as near as I could tell.

Oh, by the way, B&C did have the desired color of card stock and my flushed face was not needed as a color sample.

However, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that not all sheriff’s deputies ride off so inattentive to me after witnessing an example of my driving skills.

Several years ago, while were still operating a weekly newspaper in Millington, TN, I was driving the company pickup en route back to town from Memphis. I reached a four-way stop and saw the deputy parked on the shoulder. There was no traffic, and I was in a bit of a rush. But, I swear, I stopped at the stop sign. Granted, it was quick stop, apparently so brief that it was imperceptible to the cop. The truck was a stick shift, and I stopped (paused?) long enough to shift down from third gear to first. Then, I continued on.

To my surprise, the deputy turned on his flashing red light, pulled me over, and asked if I knew that I had run the stop sign. I said no, but he was not convinced. It may be that my elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor, but I think I am smart enough not to knowingly run a stop sign when I see a cop poised to pounce if I do. The cop and I seemed not to agree on that opinion and he gifted me with a ticket. I remain convinced of my innocence, but when I come to a stop sign now with a cop in sight, you can be assured that my auto will be in a stopped position for a sufficient amount of time that both the officer and I will agree that I stopped. If you happen to be behind me, you likely will be on the verge of honking at me to get a move on before I move on.

At least, I’m not the only driver to pull a maneuver in front of a cop and discover that it can be costly. I read a story on the Internet today about a driver in Minnesota who swerved to miss some potholes in the road and the cop behind him ticketed the guy “for failing to stay in his lane.” The driver said he plans to fight the ticket.

The cop says the guy was using his cell phone and the driver says he was not. Will be interesting to see who gets the call on that one.

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